How to Determine When an IDP Break-out is Coming

Nov 18, 2018; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions defensive end Romeo Okwara (95) during the game against the Carolina Panthers at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Hitting on IDP break-out players is one of many things that makes fantasy football fun. But when in a player's career do we see these breakouts?

It’s July, and by now you have likely finished many of your dynasty rookie drafts and have a shiny group of new players on your teams. While we draft all our players with the highest of hopes, many IDP and offensive players won’t break out this year (or ever). The exception to this is if I drafted them, in which case they are all great. ( Ignore the fact that I once spent a top-three rookie pick on Corey Coleman.)

This article looks at when IDP players actually break out, helping us set reasonable expectations for players.

Method and Limitations to determine an IDP Break-out

This is a follow-up to previous work I’ve done on hit rates for IDP rookies in January 2022. If you haven’t read the previous work on hit rates, all you need to know is that we are looking at draft classes from 2011 to 2020, and how many “breakout” by career year.

For this article, an IDP break-out is a top 24 seasonal finish in IDP123 scoring with true position designations. This study does not include the 2021 class, since they have only played one season.

There are some small differences between what was presented in January and what is presented here — several players had their positions corrected. Many of those corrections were provided by Tom Kislingbury of Dynasty League Football, whom I thank for pointing out to me. However, keep in mind that players are counted by their drafted position, even if they broke out at a different one.

Jordan Poyer is counted as a cornerback, even though he broke out as a safety. We cannot foresee most position changes when drafting them as rookies, but regardless, we still get the benefits when they break out.

Some leagues are starting to raise the value of passes defended above tackles to reward good Cornerback play.  While IDP123 scoring scores three points for a pass defended and two for a solo tackle, I don't believe this difference is big enough to make a difference in this study.

There are some problems when comparing 10+ years of football. NFL defenses have changed dramatically over the last decade, with fewer Linebackers and more defensive backs playing. The point totals needed to finish top 24 at a position will fluctuate with each year as well.

What has happened in the past will not be exactly the same in the future. That said, reviewing the past is useful to help set reasonable expectations.

Defensive End and Defensive Tackle

Defensive End IDP Breakout rates by round and NFL seasonDefensive Tackle IDP Breakout rates by round and NFL season

The trend with each position is that a first-round IDP break-out is earlier and more often than later picks. Players from round two onward break out later in their careers, with very few rookie year breakouts.

There are two reasons why this happens. One, the NFL is somewhat decent at picking the best players, and two, early picks get more playing time as rookies, giving them an opportunity to breakout compared to their later-round peers.

Tom Kislingbury has done the work on rookie year snap counts. Take a look at how steep the drop-off in average rookie year snaps after the first round

If you are curious who the round four Defensive End with a rookie year hit is, it’s Maxx Crosby. However, it's hard to find players like Crosby in your rookie draft. I haven’t seen a rookie draft in an Offense & IDP league where he was picked within the first 80 picks. The two Defensive Tackles picked outside of the first round with a rookie hit are Derek Wolfe and Jurrell Casey.

Both Defensive End and Defensive Tackle have big differences between the top and bottom of the first round. The defensive line is a premium position in the NFL and the best prospects are drafted early. We should view later first-round defensive linemen with some skepticism.


Linebacker IDP Breakout rates by round and NFL seasonLike the trend with defensive linemen, first and second-round Linebackers typically breakout in their first two seasons in the league, while third, fourth, and fifth-round picks have later breakouts.

Consider the current Dynasty ADP of the rookies in the 2022 class (Devin Lloyd LB19, Nakobe Dean LB32, Quay Walker LB33) to some of last year's rookies who didn't have top 24 seasons (Zaven Collins LB42, Jamin Davis LB52, Pete Werner LB60).

There is an interesting arbitrage opportunity from players in this rookie class to last year's class while adding other assets.

Linebacker is a position where hit rates drop off fairly quickly as 80% of first-round picks and 55% of second-round picks and 28% of third-round picks have a breakout season. Third-round linebackers have an uphill battle to become relevant, while still being considered to have good draft capital.

There are just enough successful players in that round that we forget about Malik Harrison, Jachai Polite, Sione Takitaki, Oren Burks, and a dozen other guys who end up clogging our dynasty rosters.

Cornerback and Safety

Cornerback IDP Breakout rates by round and NFL season

Safety IDP Breakout rates by round and NFL seasonCornerback breakout rates are generally low because there are just so many cornerbacks drafted, but a limited number of spots in the top 24 finishers each year. The rookie cornerback rule is popular lore in IDP fantasy football, but it has been proven to be false. The rate of high finishes from rookie cornerbacks is proportional to playing time.

If the rookie cornerback is true at all it may be for first-round picks, as most of their breakouts are as rookies. All other rounds have breakouts spread evenly between their first three to five years in the league.

First and second-round safeties have similar numbers and distributions of breakout players. However, there are fewer first-round safeties so the overall percentages are better. After round three, the number of safety breakouts is sparse.

Repeat Rates by Breakout Year

Having an IDP breakout is nice, but it’s even better if they do it again. The following chart shows the average number of top 24 finishes by each position and breakout year.

Year one IDP breakouts have the average highest number of repeat seasons. Defensive ends and defensive tackles with year two breakouts also do fairly well. Cornerback is very flat, with first-year successes not having a strong chance at having multiple repeat seasons.

The chart is pretty noisy after round three, as there is often only a handful of players in the group.  For example, only three Linebackers have a fourth-year break-out, but one of them is K.J. Wright, who has six career top 24 seasons, causing the jump in repeat rate that year.

Note that even players drafted in 2011 are still playing and could accrue additional high finishes, raising true repeat rates.  However, it is still valid that early breakouts are preferred over late ones.

Thank you for reading this analysis of IDP break-out rates. You can find my other articles on my IDP Guys author page, and you can find me on Twitter to comment or complain @djkelltown.

David Kelly

A Canadian fantasy football player for longer than he remembers. Enjoys the NHL, a good CFL game, and a lively IDP fantasy league.

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